Renfrew, Glasgow Cathedral, Necropolis & Botanical Garden

Almost a week ago, on the 21st of June, I was visiting the small town of Renfrew and on the other side of the river Clyde – Glasgow.

I stopped in Renfrew for obvious reasons – it has my surname of Frew in it!  How could I not visit it.  As luck would have it the small town held a few surprises for me. However, they weren’t related to my Frew lineage, but rather another lineage in my family tree – the Stewart lineage!

As I came into town on Main Street, the beautiful town hall proudly standing in the center of town, grabbed my attention and called to me.  I parked my car and headed straight to its welcoming entrance beckoning me to explore and make some incredible discoveries in short order!

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The Town hall serves the community in the obvious administrative ways, but it also has a very nice little museum as well and that is where my discoveries were unveiled to me on the very first exhibit display!

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The first display I came to informed me that Renfrew is the cradle of the Stewart’s!  Wowsers!

As I continued on there also some very interesting artifacts and interesting information about this town.

Before  left, the very nice receptionist let me know where to find a plaque on the side of a building just up the street which marks the spot where the castle used to stand.  I managed to find it and nearby was the local parish church were lucknwould have it, the parish was hosting their weekly coffee and cookies fundraiser!  How lucky I am, get to take a look at the church and get coffee too?

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After that little stop in Renfrew that ended up with a major impact, I headed across the river Clyde to the bustling city of Glasgow to enjoy a few of its many treasures.

The hostel I stayed in was situated very conveniently to a lot of fine sights to visit near the University and Kelvingrove Park.

I only had a one nights stay in that interesting city so I focused my attention to just three of its offerings.

First stop, Glasgow Cathedral which survived the reformation period when so many other cathedrals found their demise.  The fine merchants of Glasgow were able to withstand the powers and forces of the times and managed to save this beautiful cathedral from destruction!

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Let’s head inside, shall we?

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I presume that the chairs in the photo above are exclusively reserved for the Queen and Prince Phillip when they visit so they have front row and distinguished seating right next to where the altar is.  Exquisite rug, isn’t it?

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This very old door leading into the sacristy has seen some tumultuous times as evidenced by the leaden bullets lodged in its face!

Now that we have explored the cathedral and some of its many treasures, let’s head back outside and head over to the adjoining graveyard, the Glasgow Necropolis.  This graveyard is the mother of all graveyards as far as I’m concerned; it’s absolutely incredible and absolutely gigantic containing so many interesting headstones, crosses and temple type family crypts.  I will just let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Toward the end of the afternoon I was ready to find a park, a garden, or something like that to stroll around in and let all of the historical sights I had been visiting earlier kind of settle in and find their absorption point in my being, when I stumbled upon the Botanical gardens.  Perfection!

Because it was near closing time at 6 pm, I didn’t have enough time to tour all of the greenhouses like I would have liked.  However, it stays light so late here in Scotland, I was able to amble around all the grounds as long as I liked, including a nice river walk.

Here is a sampling of what the botanical gardens has to offer to appease the nature and flower lover within.

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Now here is a bit of a treat; they had a superb collection of orchids….

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Before going back outside and leaving the humidity of the greenhouses, I spotted some colorful other little gems such as hibiscus and amaryllis…

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Back outside again I was delighted to see the dogwoods still blooming here.  They are some of my favorites.  At home my dogwood bloomed in April, and I also got to see some in Ireland last month, and now here in Scotland a month later!  I have been triple treated to a nice long blooming succession on my travels!  What a treat!  I usually only get to enjoy them for a couple of weeks if I’m lucky!

further along the pathways I was lead to herbs and veggies, and eventually to the Rose section…

 

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After a nice walk along the rivers edge I ended my day with a pleasant peaceful feeling,

returning to the welcoming hostel at the top of the park.

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What a great day in Glasgow.  The following day I made tracks north to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond…but that’s another story for another time… until then.  Happy trails!

 

A circular tour of England, Scotland & Wales

After taking a 5 week tour of Ireland with my good friend Lynne, I have headed over to the neighboring island to the east to do yet another clockwise tour here for the next 3 months.  I started out last Thursday, June 15th, by taking a ferry from the docks in Dublin over to Holyhead, Wales.

When I arrived at the terminal, I had another rental car waiting for me, this time painted “pull me over red!”

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I drove to my first destination a short distance up the coast to a lovely little hostel just outside the charming walled town of Conwy and cozied up for the night in that picturesque setting.

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In the morning I was fed a substantial full English breakfast at the hostel and soon I was down in the charming town and taking photos of the iconic castle before venturing northward to my next destination, Liverpool.

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As I drove north I stumbled upon yet another castle by chance when I pulled off the highway for a break.

I came upon Flint Castle.  What a fun accidental find!

Soon I arrived in Liverpool and yet another great hostel located just minutes and within walking distance of what I wanted most to see while I was there, Albert Dock.

I walked over to Albert Dock and started exploring all that it had to offer, which was a lot.  These docks are where many many emigrants departed from for a new life elsewhere; America, for example.

There were so many interesting things to look at!

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Then I came upon the Maritime Museum and enjoyed seeing its many treasures for a while…

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Liverpool was a delight but the road northward beckoned me so I was soon on my way headed to the Lake District near the border of England and Scotland.  On subsequent trips to Scotland I have often driven right past the LakeDistrict but this time I wanted to make sure I visited it and am I ever glad I did.

As I headed to my next destination, I went through the scenic and lovely town of Windemere.  There I stumbled across a wonderful little exhibit of Beatrix Potter’s work.  Having always been a big fan of her books, like The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the kid in me just had to go have a peek.  So much fun!

My first destination was a hostel on a lake at Ambleside.  Utterly charming, relaxing and downright divine!

I sat by the lake, chillin’, eating some great fish ‘n chips, the rest of the day watching families enjoy the sunshine.

This day had been absolutely perfect and the evening was a peaceful ending lakeside with a bed that had a view to die for!

The next morning was equally gorgeous and soon I was driving a bit further north through more breathtaking landscapes to my next destination in the Lake District, Keswick.

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Before I knew it I had arrived in Keswick, found the fantastic hostel I would be staying at for the night at yet another outstanding location, and was soon wandering about this delightful town’s lanes, taking in all the sights, smells, sounds and delights it had to offer up!

There were two shops in particular that I really enjoyed.  The first called Cherrydidi that featured handmade artisan’s work.  They had beautiful things at every turn of exquisite design and craftsmanship.  The shop owners were particularly delightful, Jean, Jade & Jaime.  They even have a mascot, Zak, the Collie dog who raises money for Mountain Rescue Search Dogs, and his side kick, Jesse, who really likes the warm pavement just outside the shops’ door!  Check out their unique handmade gifts by very talented artists at www.cherrydidi.com!

The second shop that really won my heart was a fudge shop that made delicious melt in your mouth lemon meringue fudge!  Finger licking good!

Later in the day I went down to the lake and took a boat ride around it and watched some of the runners come into the finish line at a triathlon that was being held that weekend.  What a busy place!

In the morning, I drove around the lake one last time and then drove a bit further north just a bit to Carlisle.

There I toured around it’s beautiful cathedral and grounds before venturing further north to Scotland.

Was oh-so-happy to see the sign “Welcome to Scotland” again!

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Not too long after crossing the border and was heading west toward Dumfries, I found another castle to explore – Drumlanrig Castle.  Although the castle itself wasn’t quite open for the season, I was able to walk around and enjoy it’s beautifully manicured grounds and gardens and had the opportunity to enjoy the castles’ elegance from the outside.

My first night in Scotland was in Ayrshire in a quaint little hamlet called Loans.

I stayed at the Old Loans Inn for two nights as I explored the northern coast between there and Glasgow. It was a very nice place and very reasonable.  It was a real “treat” for myself as most of the time I stay in hostels.  My room even had a nice big bath tub with jacuzzi jets.  I was living high on the hog!  The best part however, was making friends with a really nice gentleman from Northern England, by the name of Robert.  He too was visiting; he had come to visit his aunt who lives in nursing home nearby. We shared many a conversation together over meals in and betwixt our days’ business.

In fact, since he had grown up in the area, he told me about the coastal route north of Loans and suggested I take a drive and enjoy the scenery.  So I did, and was pleasantly surprised.  I hadn’t planned on taking that route to Glasgow, but am sure glad I did!

One of the towns I visited was Largs.  A nice, resort town, and bedroom community for Glasgow.  Yacht clubs, beaches, etc.   Very nice!

Next I visited the town of Renfrew; how could I not with the word ‘frew’ in it?!

I found the town hall (hard to miss in the center of town) and it also served as the local museum as well as for other administration functions.  Didn’t discover anything about any Frew ancestors, but much to my surprise I did discover that it was the ‘cradle’ for another very prominent name in my ancestral lineage – Stewart!  Fancy that!

In addition to the museum, I also visited the local parish church.  Luck would have it that it also happened to be their fundraiser day of having coffee and cookies for sale too.  I filled up my to go cup, and a nice selection of cookies and I was ready for the rest of the way up the road, and over the river Clyde to my next hostel in Glasgow for the night.

Even though it was only Wednesday, June 21st, and therefore still part of the first week in this portion of the trip, I am going to do a complete and separate blog post for Glasgow. The posts are becoming much too long to include a whole weeks worth of destinations.  I will try just covering 1-3 days worth instead and maybe, depending on the location, a post might only include one destination.  I am almost caught up with myself at this point.

So until the next time I have time to post as I travel, I will close for now.  You can look forward to hearing about Glasgow, Loch Lomond, Inverary Castle and Charles Renne McIntosh’s architectural masterpiece that he designed and built for R.B. Blackie called the “Hill House” in Healdsburgh, Scotland.

 

 

 

 

Emerald Island Escapades; Week 5 of 5

Ahoghill to Dublin. June 8 – 14th

This final week of our Ireland  adventure continues in Northern Ireland for a couple of days.  On Wednesday June 7th, Deirdre, Lynne and I left Deirdre’s house early to catch a ferry boat from Ballycastle harbor over to Rathlin Island for the day.

It wasn’t long before we were approaching the harbor of the island and we quickly found ourselves aboard the Puffin Bus shuttle bus which took us around the island and over to the west side where a very unusual lighthouse stands and the puffins, razorbills and guillemots were nesting for the season at the bird preserve.  What a fascinating sight that was.

It was also Lynne’s birthday so it made for a very special day for her. After touring the island we went back to the mainland via the fast ferry and had a nice, but quick visit with Deirdre’s Aunt Marion who owns a a B&B near the harbor in Ballycastle.  So nice to meet Marion, and Deirdre’s cousin, Boyd, as well.

For dinner we stopped at Stewart Frew’s fish and chip shop in Ahoghill and had the pleasure of seeing him and his daughter, Nicola, as well as feasting on some of their absolutely scrumptious fish!

On Thursday Lynne and I drove to nearby Antrim Castle & gardens after we renewed the paperwork on our rental car at the Belfast International airport.

The grounds were very pretty and the castle ruins interesting to wander through and admire.

There was even a very old Motte from the old motte and bailey. In days of long, long ago they used to build wooden castles upon a motte before the more modern stone and mortar types we are more familiar with.  A motte-and-bailey castle is a fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade.

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After our stroll through the grounds we stopped in to ‘refresh’ ourselves in the Tea Room and I indulged in a raspberry and white chocolate scone with clotted cream and fresh raspberry jam.  yum!

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That evening Deirdre, Lynne and I were invited over to Maureen’s house for a lovely dinner, a little libation and some really great laughs at her beautiful home.

Friday we stayed put all day and took a break.  I spent most of the day writing my blog post for the 2nd week of our adventures. It was rather nice to just take it easy for a change, do a little laundry and just chill.

On Saturday, my good friend Heather took us all out to the north Antrim coast again.  We started out with a really nice lunch at Strawberry Fayre Tea Room.  Although we were way too full after the delicious food, they certainly had some killer desserts that were extremely difficult to resist!

To walk off the lunch, we then ventured down a bit further to the coastline to visit a nice National Trust property, Downhill Demense House and Temple, perched upon a meadow on the cliff overlooking a beautiful stretch of beach below.

Sunday morning, after packing a picnic and saying goodbye to our wonderful and generous hosts, Roy, Deirdre and their son, Alex, we headed south toward Navan, visiting some interesting and very old sites along our path; Monasterboice Abbey, Valley of the Boyne river, Slane’s hill and castle, and last but by no means least, the ancient burial tomb at Newgrange.

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At Newgrange, we toured the Exhibit in the Visitors Center before our schedule shuttle bus took us out to the actual burial mound.  The exhibit was quite extensive, and had a lot of displays and dioramas which depicted the the people, their ways of living, and how they possibly built these types of ancient burial mounds.  It was very interesting and very informative.

When it was time to meet our bus, we walked across a bridge of the river Boyne and when we arrived at the mound sight another guide talked even further about the mounds before taking us inside.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any photography allowed once we entered the narrow passageway way which took us right into the ancient ceremonial chamber in the heart of the mound.  It was incredible and other than a few braces that had been put in place for stability, the inner chamber was exactly the way it has always been.

Quite an interesting experience!

The following day we drove a short distance to the tidy town of Trim.  There Lynne got to tour Trim castle, where the movie Braveheart was filmed, while I walked around the outside of it and walked a bit around the lovely village of Trim.  I had already visited the castle once before a couple of years ago.

After her tour we met up once again, had a delightful lunch at Raychel’s Cafe on the Main Street of town and took a nice river walk along the Boyne river getting some fabulous shots of the castle and other nearby sights of the old sheeps gate, St. Mary’s cathedral, and the ruins of St Peter’s and Patrick’s cathedral.  We finished off our evening with a an hour or two of live Trad music at James Griffins pub before retiring for the day in our lovely accommodations at Highfield house B&B.

IMG_1638As much as hated to leave that nice village, we still had a couple of days left in our escapades to spend in Dublin.  So off we we went the short drive and soon found ourselves checked into the hostel and headed down to the giant spire on O’Connel street to join in a free walking tour around that bustling city.

The walking tour gave us a nice overview of some of the sights and history of Dublin and culminated near the Dublin Castle at St. Patrick’s cathedral.

Afterward we found a hop on – hop off bus tour and finished seeing from atop the open air bus more sights all over the place.

Then we went to visit a museum which houses some of the treasures found by means of archeaology.  Here are just a few samples of the unearthed treasures.

We had a bit more of a wander about town, taking in some more Trad music at a great pub, ate some dinner at a great Italian restaurant, visited a sweets shop and then called it a day

The next morning we set out once again, heading first to Trinity College to see the Illuminated Book of Kells and the adjoining library that is totally amazing with its collection of rare books from famous smart people throughout the centuries.

One is not allowed to photograph the Book of Kells, but I did get to take some shots of the library and some of its many treasures.

After enjoying an absolutely delicious eggs Benedict in a small cafe in the Temple Bar district, our last little bit of touring the sights included the old prison and the Museum of Modern Art.

The following morning our wonderful escapades had to come to an end.  We packed up our bags one last time and then I drove Lynne to the airport to catch her flight back home to Oregon.

I hated to see her go!  We had such a great time traveling all around the beautiful Emerald Isle and made a lot a very special memories together.  As they say however, all good things must come to an end and we had found ourselves at that point in time.

She flew off to chase the setting sun the day long as she flew west and I went to the docks to catch a ferry east over to Wales to continue my travels.  I boarded the Jonathan Swift fast ferry headed to Holyhead, Wales.  And that, my friends, is another travel tale to be continued on my next installment!  Until then… hope you have enjoyed this 5 part series of exploring Ireland.

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Emerald Island Escapades; Week 4 of 5

Westport to North Antrim; May 31st – June 6th

Like the previous 3 weeks of our trip, this week offered up many an adventure.  As usual we headed northward toward our next destination, Donegal.  It was a bit of a drive that day and saw some beautiful sights.

One of our first stops was at the town of Sligo where one of my 3rd great grandmother’s was born, Mary Finnigan.  She is through my dad’s mom side of the family, Hannah Elizabeth Clapp.  Of course I had a look around in some churchyards, but never saw any sign of Finnigan headstones anywhere.  We visited St Mary’s Cathedral, the Abbey, and came across a very nice courthouse that looked a bit like a castle.

 

After we strolled around town a bit, we took a little detour in an eastward direction to visit Parke’s Castle.

 

 

The tour inside the castle was quite interesting with some very well done dioramas set up depicting the people, what their life was like and the furnishings of the period.

 

Afterward, we went back to the main road and traveled a bit further when we came across another interesting church and churchyard.  Although I never did find any Finnigan headstones I did come across a very interesting headstone, that of W.B. Yeats!

 

The church at Drumcliffe was also quite outstanding and the grounds included an ancient high cross and round tower as well as a striking view of Benbulbin from the graveyard.

 

Our next stop was a drive out to Mullaghmore Head complete with a castle and some outstanding views across the bay to the north at Donegal.

 

Not much further and we arrived at our wonderful hostel, Donegal Town Hostel, with its wonderful hosts, accommodations and location.

 

The following day, the 1st of June, we continued our adventures heading toward Londonderry.  In the morning we made a diversion west to see Slieve League cliffs, and oh was it ever worth it.  Far better than the cliffs of Moher in my opinion…

 

 

The remainder of the afternoon was spent driving the rest of the way to Londonderry, where we stayed in a lovely B&B, the Saddler’s House. After checking in, we walked a couple of blocks to the walled city and walked around top of the walls taking in the sights.

 

We walked across the Peace Bridge to  a new brewery, The Walled City Brewery.  We tried a flight of their specialty brews. They were quite yummy!

 

The next morning, after a very comfortable sleep, we had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with  none other than Pat O’Connell, the editor of Rick Steve’s guidebook for Ireland.

He was there checking up on the facts, making sure everything is correct in Rick’s guidebook. Such a nice guy and very interesting to talk to.  I personally felt honored to be able to share with him how they have inspired me to venture out on my own, traveling solo, staying in hostels and getting to know the locals.  It was a simply wonderful treat for me!

 

It was was such a pleasure and special treat to talk to him, share our experiences,  and was especially honored to have him autograph Lynne’s copy of the guidebook!

After breakfast we went for a ride west of Londonderry doing a loop in the stunning countryside around first visiting Doe Castle, then traversing around Muskie Mtn and visiting the Glenveagh National Park, which included a delightful tour of yet another castle – Glenveagh – with an added bonus of extensive gardens as well!

 

 

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What a fantastic castle; think it might even end up on my top 10 lists of my favorite castles!

On June 3rd we left Londonderry and headed east toward my good friend, Deirdre Frew.  We met her in the morning at Cloughmill’s annual fair.  It was a wonderful affair and before we knew it, we were recruited to help out in the food booth making buttermilk pancakes and Irish potatoes bread.  What fun that was!

 

The fair was put on by Cloughmills Incredible Edibles.  What a great place!  They have a community organic garden in an old mill site in the town of Cloghmill’s.  Deirdre’s brother, Patrick, is one of the main coordinators of this unique site.

 

There were so many activities to partake in for kids of all ages:  learning about herbs and their medicinal value, gardening, archery, fire starting, archery, bubblemaking, blacksmith skills, etc., etc.  we had such a great time.  There was live music, Irish dancers, and food galore!  Lynne and I felt really privileged to have the opportunity to volunteer and be part of such a great community effort!

 

 

What a fun filled day that was.  Afterward we headed to Deirdre and Roy’s house where we would spend the next 10 days or so as their guests in their lovely home with a wonderful garden as well.

 

The following day Deirdre, Lynne and I took a tour of the north Antrim coast including stops at Dunluce castle, a wonderful “wee” cottage, Bushmill’s Distillery, and the Giant’s Causeway.

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday we headed for Dark Hedges! It is a lane leading to an old Manor house lined with over 300 year old Beech trees.

 

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We finished the week with a wonderful get together of the “Frew Girls” for a geneaology night!  That is always a night filled with good Craic!

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Well, that ends week 4.  Next installment will be covering a bit more of Northern Ireland and then south to Trim and the city of Dublin to finish off our escapades in Ireland.  Stay tuned!